November 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

Happy November beautiful friends! Here is a poem the girls and I have been working on memorizing. Simple and yet lovely.

The stripped and shapely
Maple grieves
The ghosts of her
Departed leaves.

The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.

And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
Loveliness—

By John Updike

The desktop is inspired by the shifting palette of the landscape. The paint color chips come from an antique book about the science of color mixing. I love the subtle variation in hue. Enjoy!

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

Top 5 Favorite Things to Share with Creatives

As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”

You can read the post about having two halves of life and comparing their bucket-lists here
You can read the post called “What’s stopping you from being you” here

 

Betony and I often find ourselves in incredible conversations with awesome, creative people. We talk about the how-to’s and inspiring maxims and stories we find.
These seem to be Betony and I’s top 5; the wisdom we’ve come into over the years we keep returning to. What would you add to the list? 

1. All Projects Have 3 Parts

Let’s stop viewing art through a romantic lens for a moment and get down to the flesh and bones.

A project has three distinctive phases:
creating/ producing/ sharing

We write the songs or dream up the idea or finish the screen play. That’s the creating part. But then we have to get out the microphones, gather the teams, rent the rehearsal space and produce what’s been dreamed. We’ve got to give life our ideas. Producing is such a hard phase!

And most creatives stop there. I know I have before. Your dream has come alive and can be seen or heard or experienced…

but who’s going to invite your friends and fans to the glorious thing you’ve made?!

Marketing is difficult but for the most part no one is going to do it for us. We have to find natural and loving ways to share our work with those who we know will love experiencing it!

2. The Journey of the Project is as Important as the End Product

Early in my career I made an album that ended, I believe, 4 friendships. I was close to each of these musicians and invited them to play on this new project, but after so many rehearsals and events and lack of communication, I burned them out. They didn’t want to work with me after that.

The final project turned out great; everyone played beautifully and it sounded wonderful. But it’s my least favorite album of mine. I actually rarely open and listen to it because it relives, for me, such a failure of leadership and lack of understanding.

There’s a love of journey and joy in making that needs to resonate in the creation of a thing. Climbing the mountain can be tough and challenging, but a great time too. That’s why we do it. It shouldn’t be a miserable experience that turns people against each other or creates bitterness.

I’ve tried to take this to heart. A few years ago Betony and I finished a project called Becoming. When musicians came over to record in the evenings we would often feed them and spend time with them, just hanging out. Then when the album was done we had everyone involved over for a foodie’s paradise experience, an award giving ceremony (think Throne Room scene from Star Wars and old war medals), and a Becoming listening party. I look back on the creation of that album with warm memories of special times. The journey was wondrous. 

3. Make Lots of Work

There’s a wonderful passage from the book Art & Fear below and Betony and I reference this whenever we start to romanticize our current project too much. It goes like this:

The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: on the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work of the “quantity” group: fifty pound of pots rated an “A”, forty pounds a “B”, and so on. Those being graded on “quality”, however, needed to produce only one pot – albeit a perfect one – to get an “A”.

Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the “quantity” group was busily churning out piles of work – and learning from their mistakes – the “quality” group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.

I talk with young music writers that have been working on the same 5 songs for 3 years and my first challenge to them is: You have 20 minutes. Go write a new song. And then after that we’re going to do that exercise again and again. It’s shocking what people start to make when they get unstuck from what they’re trying to perfect.

We learn by doing or make the road by walking. In the arts it’s no different. 

4. The Most Personal is Often the Most Universal

My friend and artist Wes Sam-Bruce was where I first heard this idea: the most personal is often the most universal. I was still surprised when it came true for me.

I was getting ready to release an album called Frailty and was a little worried with how personal the themes were. My first daughter had been born and all of a sudden I was faced with my own morality. It sank in that one day I will leave her, my wife and family, leave all this I love, and walk through that passage we will all walk; death. So the album was a collection of my reflections in that season; facing my own frailty with bitter-sweet sentiment and outrageous hope for the New to come.

As I shared the album from this place of uncertainty and vulnerability(on social media, email, and beyond) I was surprised by many responses that came my way. Lots of parents had experienced similar feelings and struggles. Lots of people in general wanted to talk to me about these themes charged throughout the songs. 

When I was willing to write from the personal places of my story
it struck a chord in the story of those I loved as well.

5. Just love them

There are two things I do before going on stage. And this is whether I’m leading worship at a church or performing at a concert or teaching or whatever.

Two things.

And they are a bit embarrassing to disclose. (At least the first one is.)

The first I learned from a TED Talk.

I look into the mirror of the nearest bathroom I can find (a place of privacy). I look into my reflection and give a big smile and I square my shoulders in a sort of power-pose. The TED Talk explained that doing this physical act of showing yourself to be strong actually helps our brains believe we really are. The study involved people doing these power-poses in the mirror before job interviews and they reported an increase in confidence. 

I’ve done it for years. Even more than confidence, I’d say it helps me focus on being present and energetic and fully ready to be a good leader.

The next thing I do I consider the most important.

I look in the mirror and I say, Just love them.

The power-pose was from a TED Talk but this one is from some article my wife found. It was by a motivational speaker who traveled and spoke all the time. He made sure it wasn’t about his performance or some results oriented marker. Just love them. That was his main goal entering the room.

And so I find myself at times wondering,
will I do a good enough job?
what if my voice doesn’t hit those high notes?
what if they find my songs boring?
what if I’m not cool enough or say something stupid?
what if no one shows or no one buys any CDs or what if…?

Just love them

I’ve found that if I orient myself around that, everything else will be secondary and I will have achieved what I was supposed to and I can let go of the outcome.

 

There’s my top 5 pieces of wisdom I’ve returned to over the years in my creative field. I hope you found it helpful and/or interesting.
I would LOVE if you wanted to add to the list below in the comments. What’s an anecdote or concept you’ve found helpful?

What’s Stopping You from Being You?

As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”

Here’s the post on the two halves of life where I compare bucket-lists, 7th grade’s and today’s.
And here’s our Top 5 Helpful Things for Creative People!


It was ten years ago and Betony was pregnant with our first child. We were having dinner with some friends who are a bit older than us; people whose wisdom in the music profession I trust.

After dinner we were talking about dreams and songwriting and insecurities.
My friend turned to me and gave me something I’d been looking for a long time: permission.

He told me it was time to take my music career out of the closet and give it some sunshine…
let it breathe. He told me I could do it and essentially to stop wishing it and go be it.

Isn’t it strange how just a bit of encouragement from a trusted source can be all we need?

Before this moment I had played in bands and led worship music and produced demo albums with incredible musicians. But I’d never taken any of it as seriously as I’d liked. When we played a show I rarely invited anyone. When we made an album I wouldn’t invest very much money or even pay to get it mastered. I had this major fear and hinderance in my mind. It’s one I still will wrestle with on bad days. It goes like this:

If I don’t make enough money doing this then I’m not successful.
If this doesn’t lead to a tipping point of notoriety that leads to sustainability then I’m not successful. If I don’t create enough income to arrive at the American dream of a sweet house and some cars, then I’m not successful.
If I can’t make a living doing this, isn’t it just a glorified hobby?

And around and around my mind goes
until I feel embarrassed calling myself a musician. 

We all have a major hangup, don’t we? That main roadblock that’s in our way that we just keep struggling with.
Mine seems to be this definition of success. What’s yours? 


My hangups are still present, but after this eye opening conversation 10 years ago something in me changed. I had a big shift in perspective. 

I probably wasn’t ever going to be a singer-songwriter as a singular career. But that was ok.
I was going to keep being an intentional singer-songwriter because…
when it came down to it, I had been compelled to since I was young.

I had written songs and longed to share them since 2nd grade.

I had a fire in my bones, as a prophet once put it, and I had to create and share.

That sentence reads melodramatic, but I think most creatives know what I’m talking about…
the compulsion to make something meaningful and share it with the people we love;
to connect in deep ways where what’s being sung and experienced becomes a conversation of “me too”;
to make something beautiful that speaks in and over and through the human condition. 


So that year, a decade ago, after that important conversation, I started taking creating seriously. I had another job as a worship leader but I also started dedicating time to songwriting, to having a website, a Facebook page, to setting up a series of house concerts. I put together my first ever tour with the goal to break even (I made $500 and was so thrilled).

I had just turned 30.
And I’ve kept this up the last 10 years.

When people ask what I do for a living I tell them musician
and it’s usually with a great deal of pride.
That title is a juggling of a whole lot of “main jobs” and “side hustles”. I think the most important thing the intentionality over these years has done… it has addressed the compulsion to make and given me space to create.

To put it maybe a better way, it’s helped me be the person I’ve needed to be; the person I’ve felt called to be.

I’ve made work I’m proud of. I’ve had people respond and let me know a song or project or experience meant a great deal to them.
And that truly has felt like the answer to the calling.
And it’s still not been my main source of income.
But it’s not a hobby.
It’s an identity. 

I’m so thankful, grateful that someone came along to give me permission to do this.
I needed the affirmation and encouragement
that even though creating this art is not my sole income, it’s my soul income.
That has personally been my largest hurdle to overcome in being an artist.


So now I say this quite seriously
to those of you with the fire in your bones to make and create and connect,
whatever your hangups are:

You can do this.
You feel deep inside you’re called to it and you HAVE to make.
Do what you need to do.
Be responsible. Live economically. Make it work.
It’s worth it.
Keep on your side hustles and passion projects
and add beauty to this world starved for meaning.
It makes a better us when you are fully you.
Thank you for being bold. It’s we who benefit. 

 

My 7th Grade Bucket List vs. My 40 Year Old Bucket List

As I turn 40 this month I’m writing a few reflective posts. It’s always good to take step back and ask, “What have I been learning and experiencing these last few years… or better yet, decades?”

Here’s the post called, “What Stopping You from Being You?”
Here’s the Top 5 helpful things we love sharing with people in creative work.

 

Tim Coons Life Goals
from 7th Grade Health Class (and yes, this is real. Proof in the above picture.)

1. Skydive
2. Learn to surf
3. See Europe
4. Play high school football
5. Scuba dive
6. Be good at tennis
7. Go to C.U.
8. Party a lot
9. Get a Geo storm
10. Be famous

When I was in seventh grade I created this gem of a bucket list. My mom has kept it on a poster-board all these years and gave it to me recently. I still cannot read through this top 10 without laughing out loud. And for those of you who know me, you realize just how far this middle school version was from my actual self.

What is doubly incredible is that I failed to achieve any item on this list. I have yet to see Europe or scuba dive. I was never any good at tennis. I went to UNC instead of CU Boulder. I still don’t feel like I’ve partied a lot. And just where is my Geo Storm? My 13-year-old self’s dream car? That’s probably the biggest question.

I’d love to say out loud right now, in response to these lame dreams and aspirations…
Thank God my priorities have changed.

I’m so thankful that we “grow up” in life. If we happen to live long enough we are gifted with both painful and joy-filled experiences that open our eyes. We evolve and the values we held at 10 may be different at 20 and 30. And I hope that keeps happening for me past midlife!

I think it will, as I believe our souls are constantly becoming our true selves.

 

Two Halves of Life

In the book Falling Upward by Richard Rohr, he presents the idea that there is a major shift in the first half of life to the second half of life that many of us experience. And perhaps our goals and priorities in life’s first half will drastically change in the last. 

The first half of life is preoccupied with making the container of who you are.
It’s our job and family-building
and home-making
and career-establishing time.

It’s about the development and enhancement of our Ego and its mind-set: ambitions, plans, competitiveness, judgments about others, looking after oneself, one’s career, one’s family.

It’s a natural and important part of life!

The second half seems to be about undoing much of what has been accomplished in the first half in order to get at a deeper heart of human life. And it’s around midlife we begin to sense this.

We ask, What does it mean to keep growing? for the soul to keep becoming?

The second half of life is about pouring out from this container you’ve created. You’ve climbed some mountains and now it’s time to help others up the peaks.

“Most of us think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of our physical life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling can largely be experienced as falling upward and onward, into a broader and deeper world, where the soul has found its fullness, is finally connected to the whole, and lives inside the Big Picture.”
-Richard Rohr, Falling Upward (153)

Rohr recounts four stained-glass windows he sees in a church in India. It is a Christian church but the windows represent the four stages of what a Hindu would call a great life.

The stage’s actually really surprised me.

The first part of life you are the student.

The second is the homemaker,
where you are establishing your family and home and vocation.

These first identities made sense to me and it could be said these make up the first part of life.

What’s fascinating is as Americans we stop there. While driven by so much by the story of capitalism, we are constantly urged to continue the game of this first half of life until we own three homes and have more stuff than we can possibly know what to do with. It’s only about our ego formation; mine and my own. Then we retire at 65 to travel, disconnect, and enjoy our stuff. Or if we don’t achieve this we note a label of failure hinted at by our culture. 

But in the stained-glass windows was presented an aspect of the second half of life that seemed so new to me.

The third phase being forest-dweller.

I think of the great American poet, Mary Oliver, walking through the woods of her property and coming back with lines of wisdom. The forest dweller realizes there is more to know about the world than the building of their own small kingdom and begins to leave home to seek out that insight.

Then the last stage of life is, of course, sage. The elder person brimming with wisdom who you find yourself loving to be around with their gentle humor, easy joy, depth of mind, and compassion.

Student
Homemaker
Forest Dweller
Sage

These stained-glass windows certainly hint at what I’m feeling, this mid-journey. When it comes to my own growth, I’m feeling this.

In my vocation I still have work I’m excited to do and albums to produce. But I know that work and career doesn’t completely define me.

The idea of entering into the second half of life feels true to me. It is both scary and exciting as all great adventures are. In some ways it feels like a death: the death of dreams not yet realized and the difficult reality of just how fast life really goes. But of course with death you always find a rebirth and I can feel that resonating within me too.

So here’s my new list.

I know it will change in vocabulary over the coming years and I welcome that as I continue to grow. But here’s a first attempt. 

The new, 40 year old Tim bucket list:

1. Be a soul who abides in Love.
2. Share this life with my wife in deep partnership
3. Be a present father for my children.
4. Belong to and be connected with the family and friends I’m blessed with.
5. Produce good, life-giving, and fruit-bearing work and experiences.

This bucket list is much more ethereal and harder to quantify. I can’t checkmark these of these dynamic goals off, because, like the soul, there’s never really an arrival point for any of them.

It’ll be much harder than the tangible purchasing of a Geo Storm.
But I find this list to be much more satisfying for where I’m at in life. 

 

October 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

 

“It cannot be seen, cannot be felt,
Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt,
It lies behind stars and under hills,
And empty holes it fills,
It comes first and follows after,
Ends life, kills laughter.” 
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Sweet October is here my friends. The days are darkening, the spooks are out, and the leaves are shifting. Enjoy this walk into the dark woods!

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

“There are different kinds of darkness,” Rhys said. I kept my eyes shut. “There is the darkness that frightens, the darkness that soothes, the darkness that is restful.” I pictured each. “There is the darkness of lovers, and the darkness of assassins. It becomes what the bearer wishes it to be, needs it to be. It is not wholly bad or good.” 
― Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury

Shakespeare Homeschool Unit – A Midsummer Night’s Dream and More

This year to share our homeschooling journey, I am going to post updates on our unit studies we do, rather than on a month to month basis like I have in the past. I figure it is more helpful for you other homeschooling mama’s and dad’s out there who are looking for ideas/sparks for your own homeschool journey.

Shakespeare:

Lucy(9) was the spark behind starting the year off with an introduction to Shakespeare. She had really enjoyed these two graphic novels by Ian Lendler that are based on the plays but made for kids. They led to lots of questions about who Shakespeare was and what his plays were about. So we decided to jump in and start off the year with a little Shakespeare study.

Image result for zoo macbeth graphic novelRelated image

Thanks to my own parents (who read it aloud to us when we were kids) and the book “How to Teach your Children Shakespeare” by Ken Ludwig, we decided to start with Midsummer Nights Dream. It is lighthearted and silly with themes and content that can be understood by kids (mine are 9,7,3, and 1).

One of the things Ken suggests is to memorize passages – which takes knowing the subtleties of meaning and words to a whole other level. Here is the passage we worked on memorizing –

Because the passage has so many flower references, we spent some time illustrating the different flowers and learning what each flower looked like – touching and smelling some out of our own garden. And then we also learned about how flowers work in this lovely book by Gail Gibbons

Image result for flowers gail gibbons

And this enchanting one by Rita Gray and illustrated by Kenard Pak

Image result for flowers are calling book

I made some pretty little printouts to show and talk about each of the different plants referenced. Feel free to print your own and use them for personal use if you want. Here is the pdf if you would like a copy —-> Shakespeare flowers

Speaking of printables, thank you Phee McFaddell for sharing the fun printable paper dolls. They were the perfect thing to work on while reading the original Midsummer Night’s Dream play (I only wish there were a few more of the characters! – we improvised and made our own Lysander, Hermia, Demeter, and Helena).

For the reading of the actual play, we would read a couple of scenes in the original Shakespeare, and then switch and read the same part of the story in this kids version. Lucy also jumped ahead and read several of the other stories in the collection.

By switching back and forth between the two, it made it much easier for them to understand the difficult language of the original version.

Shakespeare Childrens Story Collection 16 Books Box | Andrew Matthews Tony Ross

Here are the books we used all together –

Along with the literature side, we learned some history of the era following Susan Wise Bauer’s “Story of the World”. She has an awesome chapter on the Elizabethan Era and also one on Shakespeare. (I think this series has the WORST cover design ha ha with some of the BEST content. The activities companion book has some seriously awesome and creative ideas that go a long with the history).

The Story of the World, 4 Volume Set - By: Susan Wise Bauer

As well as doing some map work, and some coloring pages from the book, the girls chose to learn about 1200’s remedies and potions

The Shakespeare chapter also talked about stage fighting which was perfect because Lucy has been doing fencing lessons this month, which she LOVES

As well as stage fighting, we pulled from this awesome list of drama games and had a great time learning stage directions, playing improv, and miming.

(The only photo I could find of this was of Tim, ha ha)

We decided to wait on watching Shakespeare in Love (partly because I love that movie so much and I want to save it for when they are a little older), but we did watch the clip from the end with Queen Elizabeth.

Image result for shakespeare in love elizabeth

Once we finished reading the play, which we LOVED, the girls worked on making a set for our tiny “Fable Theater” so that we could put on our own stage production of A Midsummer Nights Dream. Overall, an awesome unit! So fun!

 

 

September 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

 

The first of September is one of my favorite moments of the year. There is this subtle but tangible shift from Summer to Autumn. This wallpaper was made by overlaying several antique landscape engravings on top of one another – creating this beautiful but subtle translucent effect. To me it is an illustration of that movement from one season to the next. The delicate folding and unfolding of a year.

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

 

Desktops for Evensong

On Saturday, August 18th, I had the opportunity to give the message at St. Andrew Evensong, the church where I’m a music director in Highlands Ranch, CO.

I spoke on how with every revolution of the earth around the sun, the seasons themselves preach over us… fall, winter, spring, and summer tell of death, hope, resurrection, and new life. We encounter this every year and the truth of it permeates our lives as our Christian holiday calendar reflects these truths every season.

I let folks know that the symbol that Courtney Wilkinson initially created (and that my wife has redesigned a couple times) was to capture this wonder.

And then I ended the talk by telling the story of this icon and offering it as a wallpaper for desktop and iphone backgrounds. Enjoy, friends!

 

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers:

August 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

Inspired by the yearly migration of the Monarch butterflies  –

For the desktop, click on the image below to view the large size image.

For the iphone wallpaper, navigate to this page on your phone and then click and hold on the image you want. Select ‘Save image to camera roll’. Then from your camera roll set your home screen/lock screen or both.

iphone wallpapers: